The origin of the Piñata and why it is a must that Muslims do not use it in their days of celebration

“The origin of the piñata is thought to date back over 700 years ago to Asia. Marco Polo discovered the Chinese fashioning figures of cows, oxen or even buffaloes, covering them with colored paper and adorning them with harnesses and trappings to greet the New Year. When they knocked the figure hard with sticks of various colors, seeds spilled forth. The remains were then burned and people gathered the ashes to bring good luck throughout the year.

When the custom passed into Europe in the 14th century, it was adapted to the celebration of Lent. The first Sunday became ‘Piñata Sunday’. The Italian word ‘pignatta’ means “fragile pot.” Originally, piñatas fashioned without a base resembled clay containers used for carrying water.

The custom then spread to Spain, the first Sunday in Lent becoming a fiesta called the ‘Dance of the Piñata’. The Spanish used a clay container called “la olla”, the Spanish word for pot. At first, “la olla” was not decorated. Later, ribbons, tinsel and fringed paper were added and wrapped around the pot.

In the 16th century, the Spanish missionaries to North America used the piñata to attract converts to their ceremonies. However, the indigenous peoples already had a similar tradition. To celebrate the birthday of the Aztec god of war, Huitzilopochtli, priests placed a clay pot on a pole in the temple at year’s end. Colorful feathers adorned the richly decorated pot, filled with tiny treasures. When it was broken with a stick or club, the treasures fell to the feet of the god’s image as an offering. The Mayans, great lovers of sport, also played a game where the player’s eyes were covered while hitting a clay pot suspended by string.

The missionaries ingeniously transformed these games for religious instruction. They covered the traditional pot with colored paper, giving it an extraordinary, perhaps fearful appearance.

The original and traditional piñata has seven points symbolizing the seven deadly sins: envy, sloth, gluttony, greed, lust, anger/wrath, and pride. The ten pointed piñata symbolizes the sins that come from breaking the Ten Commandments.

The stick which is used to break the pinata represents and symbolizes love. It is supposed to destroy the sins by hitting and breaking the pinata into pieces. The candies and treats that come pouring out from the broken piñata symbolize the forgiveness of sins and a new beginning.” (Source: cincy-cinco.com/history-of-the-pinata)

It is not permissible for the Muslims to imitate the unbelievers in anything that is particular (or specific) to their celebrations and festivals.

Islam does not allow for newly introduced practices borrowed from other religions because it considers those religions to be either manmade or a distortion of the messages of previous prophets as is clearly the case with the Christian religion and its celebration of Christmas.

So integration into any society should never entail a Muslim contradicting the commands of the Messenger, nor his guidance. When a Muslim seeks to resemble the non-Muslims in such matters it shows that he is not confident about his own religious identity and seeks the favour and approval of other faiths— and he attains that through imitating their religious practices. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ

“Whoever resembles a people is from them.” (Abu Dawūd, no 4031) The more a person resembles a group of people, the more he counted among them. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) informed the Muslims, “You will surely follow the ways of those who came before you, handspan by handspan, cubit-length by cubit-length such if one of them enters into a lizards hole, you too will enter it.” They asked the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “Do you intend the Jews and Christians?” He replied, “Who else?” (Bukhārī and Muslim)

It is obligatory for a Muslim to avoid gathering at the non-Muslim places of worship and where they hold mass. The Prophet’s Companion, Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Whoever settles in the lands of the non-Muslims, then he celebrates their festivals of Nayrūz and Mahrajān (of the Persians), and he imitates them and then he dies whilst in that state, he will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection.” (Sunan Al-Kubrā of Al-Bayhaqī, 9/234, Ibn Taymiyyah stated that its chain of narration is authentic in Iqtidā As-Sirāt Al-Mustaqīm, 1/457)

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